Sunday 23 February 2020

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Cork Independent

Lifestyle & Leisure

The leashed you could do!

Wednesday, 12th February, 2020 3:51pm

A local charity organisation are looking for volunteers to help care for service dogs in training.

My Canine Companion (MCC) specialise in the training and placement of highly skilled service dogs. These furry friends provide safety, independence, and companionship to children and young adults with disabilities, particularly autism. Many of their clients can have dual or multiple diagnoses.

As each child is different, the organisation provides outstanding customised service to meet the specific needs of each family.

The charity was founded by Cork husband and wife Cliona O’Rourke and Niall Ruddy in 2011. Currently, there is a huge demand for the service, with a constantly increasing waiting list. In response to demand, the charity are looking for help from the public, and volunteers in several areas.

Volunteering can include boarding training dogs for a four-month period. This involves keeping a dog in your home for evenings and weekends, allowing them to get used to a home environment. The dogs will be at work with their instructors during the day. Ideally volunteers will be available to drop the dog to the Blackpool area each morning and collect them in the afternoon.

The organisation also needs puppy fosterers, who will raise the puppies up to the age of 18 months, when they will enter the final training stage. Volunteers can also work with MCC at their charity shop in Blackpool, or help with fundraisers, and community events nationwide.

Co-founder Cliona O’Rourke is a world leader in the area of service dogs. In 2004, she was the first trainer in Europe to train a dog specifically for a child with autism. Cliona travelled to Canada to observe the Canadian service dogs programme, before developing the first European incarnation of the programme in Ireland.

The dogs are highly trained and have reached the required standard of Assistance Dogs International. They have unlimited access to public places such as shops, restaurants, cinemas, and other spaces.

Service dogs can increase safety levels and alleviate bolting behaviour by acting as an anchor when tethered to the child. They also provide independence, as the child doesn’t have to hold the parents hand. The calming effect the dog has on the child allows greater freedom in public spaces. They act as a constant companion, offering unconditional love and friendship to an individual who almost always has few friends, and help improve socialisation skills.

MCC do not receive any government funding and rely solely on organised charity events, collections and charitable donations. Each service dog costs €10,000 to provide.

MCC are hosting their Green Tie Ball on 4 April at Silversprings Hotel. The event will feature a four-course meal, a band, and a DJ until late. Tickets are €65, and available from the MCC website.

Donations to MCC can be made by text to 50300, or through Facebook or MCC’s website. For further information, visit mycaninecompanion.ie.

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